Wiley, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 1(40), p. 48-60
Background. Qualitative research plays an important part in providing evidence for practice in nursing, and is gaining greater acceptance within medicine. However, questions remain about what criteria are most appropriate for evaluating qualitative research. To date, little systematic evaluation of qualitative research in palliative care has been conducted. Aims. This paper is based on a larger study in which we conducted a critical review of qualitative research in palliative care from nursing, medicine, specialist palliative care, sociology, death studies, medical anthropology, and gerontology journals published between 1990 and 1999. The aim of this paper is to present an account of the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative palliative care research in nursing, using data from this review. Methods. In the larger study, 138 papers from 50 journals were reviewed critically using a tool developed to assess both content and quality; in one part of this tool reviewers recorded open-ended comments on the strengths and weaknesses of each paper. In this paper, we present a thematic analysis of reviewers' comments on a subgroup of 67 nursing papers from the main review, together with an analysis of comments on 29 papers from a comparison group of death studies, medical anthropology, and sociology journals. Patterns of positive and negative evaluation are identified and used to generate an account of strengths and weaknesses in qualitative palliative care research in nursing. Findings. Over 40% of the subgroup of papers from nursing journals received positive comments on topic and quality of writing; around 30% received positive comments on contribution to understanding, practical value, and conceptual or theoretical issues. Less than 20% received positive comments on other critical dimensions. Over 40% of nursing papers received negative comments on the link between data, analysis, and findings, other aspects of method and theoretical and conceptual issues. A higher proportion of papers in the comparison group received positive comments on conceptual and theoretical issues and contribution to understanding. Conclusions. Nearly half the nursing papers reviewed were judged to be well written or to have a well-chosen topic. However, more than 40% of papers drew negative comments about key methods-related issues. Arguably therefore efforts to improve the quality of research evidence should focus on this area.